Breadking the Grid, Making Our Class
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/01/2014
Year Published: 2014
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20344
Yang provides a reading of E.P. Thompson's "The Making of the English Working Class" through the lens of contemporary and historical working-class revolutions and struggles.
The quality of chapter XI, "The Transforming Power of the Cross," for instance, cannot be understood unless we take into account EPT's own Methodist upbringing and socialist humanist campaign to democratize Communism first from within the Party, then from outside after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The writing thus expresses indelible immediacy.
EPT's attentive parsing of Methodism's bureaucratic ossification under Rev. Jabez Bunting, as it turned into a "desolate landscape of Utilitarianism in an era of transition to the work-discipline of industrial capitalism", calls to mind how such ideological correspondences would recur in later forms of industrial capitalist work-discipline. Examples range from Meiji Japan's state-nationalist recuperation of the emperor in mobilizing industry and war to Leninist calls for "socialist accumulation" under Taylorist labor discipline, to Christian fundamentalist resuscitation of the Protestant work ethics in the United States and elsewhere.
EPT's characteristic verve recaptures what might appear to be a minor chiliastic cult of Johanna Southcott as an intimate kin of Methodist revivalism in absorbing the political despair of the popular movement after the defeat of the revolutionary 1790s. Through the microcosm of local social experience, we thus learn to gauge the totality of a world-historical ideological drift.
Moreover, The Making shows that such despairs were temporal and even reversible, as Methodist workers and preachers took to "the different fields of working-class politics" and swelled the rank and file of Peterloo demonstrators and the Chartist movement.